Digital Backyards Forum “Remaking Search”: Workshop

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  • “Remaking Search”: Workshop Oct.18th

    Privacy in Searching

    – Searching means sharing your private thoughts and intimate aspects of your life, so looking at someones history tells a complete story of a person
    – Privacy is a high value that can and should not be taken for granted
    Ixquick: metasearch engine values privacy and doesn’t save personal search data
    – Saving data is natural for programmers, because saving information is mostly beneficial und easier than deleting it
    – How can a user be sure that a search engine does not save his or her data?
    – Is privacy a technical or a trust issue?
    – Telling the user to trust that you don’t save data is difficult, but its also difficult to go about this another way
    – Trust can come from free software solutions
    – Ixquick goes beyond trust: they received the European Privacy Seal from the European commission, technical and legal audits to renew the seal twice a year, important changes in the operation and programming need to be communicated to the auditors
    – Normally corporations control the user data and its not available to the public, but the imminent risk is that this information might get outside of this controlled environment by accident
    – What is the priority: privacy or security? Can they even be divided?
    – Everyone wants to collect data, e.g. on how many users they have, that is why security is such a big issue
    – People mainly don’t know that there is a privacy issue, therefore it is important to build an awareness and common understanding
    – Does talking about privacy change or solve the problem? Knowing about something does not mean there will be change, but knowledge could bring along the consensus that there is a need for change
    – Even many hackers still use Google, so is privacy really the relevant issue?
    – Some countries have extensive net privacy laws, we have to find business models outside standard capitalism
    – Privacy itself might not be an issue, it will only be clear if thats the case when there is wider awareness
    – People are at least vaguely aware of privacy issues, the majority might not care about privacy, they might care more about practical approaches to new ways of searching
    – Moral issues are less important, the users mainly want an easy-to-use application
    – We could also embrace the loss of privacy as it can open new doors for a different society, we need to live with the choices we make in public
    – The loss of privacy comes with benefits and dangers, we need to make educated choices about what we do in a “public” internet
    – Privacy where necessary but the search engine should apply user info whenever this is necessary to give out good search results

    Why do we want to remake search?

    – There are other issues with Google than privacy such as power asymmetry and massive data collection
    – Existing alternatives to Google are much smaller
    – Google’s business model is based on scale, in order to compete with them you need the same amount of infrastructure
    – User’s shift from Microsoft to Apple and others was not driven by actively deciding against Microsoft but by the availability of other and better options
    – Accordingly only if something better is available you will make the choice to not use Google anymore
    – Scaling up small ventures creates the same problems that we have now, we would end up in the same position with monopolies etc.

    –  For many younger users searching the web means searching Facebook, everything they are looking for is on there, Facebook becomes their search engine as it has all the data these people need
    – But you can’t search Facebook in the same way as a search engine, due to legal issues it actively stops you from searching past entries
    – What do we define as search? Will web search still be the dominant kind of search in the future? Will it evolve or will it die?
    – More and more info is logged into “silos” that cannot be linked, information from Google can not be found on Facebook, also you are forced to create an account, otherwise Facebook’s data is not accessible for you
    – The market will always take care of search for products and services, this is different with search for knowledge
    – There are lot of different ways of searching that cannot be done on the internet
    – It is still difficult to find results in a different language as the search will not be translated into another language
    – An example for search engine evolution: a search engine that understands you and searches for specific information according to your preferences
    – Using metadata that is too tedious for you to type in (sensor data such as your local position etc.) can create much better search results
    – Technology doesn’t exist in a vacuum
    – Many funding opportunities for free software solutions available
    – Competition is possible if the public will get control of the meta data, there are intellectual rights issues and monopolies, but Europe can not compete with that by going the same way
    – market logic in a network environment leads to monopoly
    – networks increase the speed thats needed to create a monopoly, everything is faster nowadays
    – infrastructures can not only be driven by the market logic

    What other options do we have?

    – ixquick / startpage: metasearch engine that puts high value on privacy and doesn’t save personal search data, however it does not introduce new infrastructures

    serchilo.net: with wiki-stored commands that can be edited and shared the user decides where where he wants to go, in that way you are not waiting for the search engine to figure out what you want to look for, the autosearch function helps the user to learn commands

    How Can We Scale Up?

    – We can think about scale as in getting more people to use a specific search engine and getting the masses to understand the problem with currently dominant search engines, thereby building a strong awareness and forcing the big time acteurs to change their ways

    – The problem with scaling up in size is that Google is huge, but to get alternatives working you don’t necessarily have to have the same dimension

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